Too good to be true

As we all know, or rather should know: “if it is too good to be true, it probably is”.

And yet …

Even experienced persons may fail to recognize a too good to be true scam for what it is. According to Wikipedia:


Since 1995, the United States Secret Service has been involved in combating these schemes. The organization does not investigate unless the monetary loss is in excess of 50,000 US Dollars. However, very few arrests and prosecutions have been made due to the international aspect of this crime.

In 2006, a report by a research group concluded that Internet scams in which criminals use information they trick from gullible victims and commonly strip their bank accounts cost the United Kingdom economy £150 million per year, with the average victim losing £31,000.

Between May 1992 and July 1994, a San Diego-based businessman, James Adler, was swindled out of $5.2 million by a Nigeria-based advance fee scam. In 2000, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s findings that (1) various Nigerian government officials (including a governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria) had been directly or indirectly involved; (2) the Nigerian government officials could be sued in U.S. courts under the “commercial activity” exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act; and (3) Adler’s case was completely barred by the doctrine of unclean hands because he had knowingly entered into a contract with the criminal purpose of helping Nigerian officials embezzle funds from their own government.

Nelson Sakaguchi, a director at the Brazilian bank Banco Noroeste, transferred hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars to Chief Emmanuel Nwude, Nigeria’s most accomplished scammer. The scam led to at least two murders, including that of one of the scammers, Mr. Bless Okereke. The scam was the third biggest in banking history, after Nick Leeson’s activities at Barings Bank, and the looting of the Iraqi Central Bank during the buildup to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

What is probably less known to the public, is that often scientists fail the “too good to be true” test when it comes to their own, completely innocent and well-intended, inventions.